FIR against unknown persons for reclamation of Wadala wetland
Environmentalists expressed disappointment at the delay in action, considering authorities had first been alerted to the violations in early 2019
Mumbai The Wadala police on Thursday lodged a First Information Report (FIR) against unknown persons under relevant sections of the Environment Protection Act (1986), for reclamation and unauthorised use of an intertidal wetland in Wadala, located less than a kilometre from the Bhakti Park monorail station.
Environmentalists expressed disappointment at the delay in action, considering authorities had first been alerted to the violations in early 2019. They also pointed out that the reclaimed portion of the wetland is now being used to hold weddings, community gatherings and other public functions on a commercial basis.
Stalin D, the director of city-based NGO Vanashakti and a member of the Bombay high court-appointed Wetlands Grievance Redressal Committee, who wrote to authorities highlighting the violations as early as January 2019, said, “Failure to protect and restore the wetland has led to the area being rented out for various occasions. A full-fledged dais, along with drapes and other scaffolding, has been installed in the reclaimed portion of the wetland along with an approach road, which is completely in violation of the HC orders calling for protection of mangroves and water bodies. It is disheartening to see that despite a member of the Wetlands Committee having repeatedly expressed concern over the fate of the wetland, nothing was done. Reclamation should have been stopped more than two years ago.”
The wetland in question falls under the jurisdiction of the salt department, which operates under the Central government (manufacturing of salt being part of the Union List of the Indian Constitution). “There are multiple government bodies which are obliged to protect it, be it the forest department, the BMC or the salt department. During a meeting of the Wetlands Committee in 2019, it was promised that the forest department would help remove blockages to tidal water. Later, the BMC made a commitment to help restore water supply to the lake and also to undertake steps to clear the debris. The salt department has not given any permission which allows use of the area for commercial activities. One hopes that this FIR, which has been lodged two years too late, will lead to concrete action. Offenders need to be penalised, and someone needs to take the responsibility for restoring the wetland,” Stalin said.
Neenu Somraj, deputy conservator of forests (mangrove cell), could not be reached for comment despite several efforts.
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